Eagles vs. Bucs Wild-Card Weekend: By the Numbers

Third downs could be the difference in Sunday's wild-card matchup between the Eagles and Tampa Bay.

Alex Singleton tackles running back Leonard Fournette of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on October 14, 2021. / Photograph by Mitchell Leff / Stringer via Getty Images

The last time the Eagles faced the Tampa Bay Bucs was in Week 6’s Thursday night game when Jonathan Gannon’s defense still was handing out first-quarter points like celebration cigars.

The Eagles gave up an NFL-high of 48 first-quarter points in their first six games, including 14 that night at the Linc. Tom Brady engineered a pair of game-opening 75-yard touchdown drives and the Bucs never really looked back, even if the scoreboard might’ve indicated otherwise.

Brady completed 11 of 12 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns on those first two drives. He was fifth in the league in first-quarter passing during the regular season with a 109.5 rating, a 71.5 completion percentage, 12 TDs, and just 2 interceptions. The Bucs were tied for third in first-quarter scoring with 107 points, behind only the Cowboys and Chiefs, who put up 130.

After the loss to the Bucs, the Eagles’ defense began to offer a little more first-quarter resistance, allowing just 52 first-quarter points in their last 11 games, which was the 13th most in the league. That said, just two of those last 11 games were against teams that finished higher than 17th in scoring.

  • The Bucs had the second-highest third-down success rate in the league during the regular season (47.1). They converted seven of their 13 third downs against the Eagles that night. The last one was a game-ending kneel-down, so it was actually 7 of 12.
  • The back-breaker was Brady’s 27-yard completion to Antonio Brown on third-and-seven with three minutes to go, which foiled the Eagles’ hopes of getting the ball back and possibly pulling off an upset.
  • Six of the Bucs’ third downs against the Eagles were four yards or less, including four third-and-ones. The Bucs converted five of their six third downs of four yards or less, including all four third-and-ones.
  • Brady completed 34 of 42 passes against the Eagles. He was one of five quarterbacks who completed 80 percent of their attempts versus the Birds in the first nine weeks of the season. Here’s a breakdown:
Comp.Att.Comp. Pct.
Dak Prescott212680.8
Patrick Mahomes243080
Tom Brady344280.9
Derek Carr313491.2
Justin Herbert323884.2
  • The Eagles did a good job against the Bucs’ ground game in Week 6, holding Leonard Fournette and Co. to 3.3 yards per carry, 2.9 on first down. The Bucs averaged just 3.4 yards per carry on first down in the first half.
  • Jalen Hurts had one of his worst games of the season against the Bucs. He completed just 12 of 26 passes for 115 yards. He was just five-for-14 for 54 yards in the first half. His 55.8 passer rating was his second-lowest of the season. So was his 46.2 completion percentage and 4.42 yards-per-attempt average.
  • The Eagles ran the ball just 19 times against the Bucs. Miles Sanders had just one carry in the first half. One. He finished with 56 yards on nine carries. Fifty of those 56 yards came in the fourth quarter.

Buc Breakdown

  • Leonard Fournette is expected to be back Sunday after missing the last three regular-season games with a hamstring injury. But Brady and the Bucs are going to come out throwing because that’s what they do. They have the NFL’s lowest run-play percentage (33.8). They’re averaging just 22.6 rush attempts and a league-high 43.0 pass attempts per game. The only team that averaged fewer rush attempts than the Bucs is the Jets (22.3).
  • The Bucs were 26th in rushing this season, averaging just 98.4 yards per game on the ground. They were 15th in rush average (4.3).
  • As mentioned earlier, the Bucs had the second-best third-down offense in the league. They converted 47.1% of their third downs. Only the Chiefs have a better success rate on third down (52.2). The Bucs are first in the league on third-and-four or less. They have converted 74.7% of their third downs of four yards or less. Making matters worse, the Eagles defense is ranked 30th this season on third-and-four or less (67.4%). They are a much more respectable ninth on third-and-five or more (28.5%).
  • Brady has a 142.0 passer rating on third-and-four or less, including a 70.7 completion rate and nine touchdown passes. His passer rating on third-and-five or more was just 87.0, with a 56.2 completion percentage. Nine of his 22 sacks this season have come on third downs of five yards or more.
  • Brady completed 34 passes against the Eagles in Week 6. But 22 of those completions were to receivers who won’t be playing Sunday. One player who didn’t play for the Bucs in Week 6, but will play Sunday is five-time Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games the last two weeks. He had seven catches for 115 yards against the Jets and seven for 136 last week against the Panthers.
  • The Eagles have struggled with opposing tight ends this season. They’ve given up 102 catches and 13 touchdowns to tight ends. While Gronkowski didn’t play in the first Eagles game, Brady threw a touchdown pass to one of the Bucs’ other tight ends, O.J. Howard.
  • Brady has thrown 43 TD passes this season. That’s the second-most of his career. He threw 50 in 2007 when Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was nine years old.
  • Brady averaged a league-high 8.3 yards per attempt in ’07. This year, he averaged 7.4 (12th). But the Bucs still finished tied for second in 25-plus-yard pass plays with 42. The Eagles have allowed the fifth-fewest pass plays of 25 yards or more (23).
  • The Bucs were tied for second in the league in yards per play on first down (5.9). The 49ers were first, averaging 6.2. The Bucs threw the ball on 53.7% of their first down plays (291 of 542).
  • While Brady isn’t the most mobile quarterback to come down the pike, he is a master of the QB sneak. He has converted 105 of 118 (88.9%) third- and fourth-and-ones in his career.
  • Brady was sacked just 22 times this year. That was the fewest in the league among quarterbacks with 400 or more pass attempts. Brady was sacked once every 33.7 pass plays. That’s the best since ’09, when he was sacked once every 36.3 pass plays.

More good stat stuff

  • The Eagles ran just 47 plays against the Bucs in Week 6 and had the ball for only 20:04. Both of those numbers were season-lows.
  • The Eagles used 11-personnel (1RB, 1TE, 3WR) on 37 of those 47 plays against the Bucs. They used 12P seven times and 21P (2RB, 1TE, 2WR) three times. If they can keep the game close Sunday, they are expected to use a lot more 12- and 13-personnel groupings.
  • Hurts completed three of six throws of 20 yards or more against the Bucs in Week 6. But he was just one-for-seven on 11-19-yard throws.
  • In Gardner Minshew’s two starts against the Jets and Cowboys, 38 of his 53 aimed throws (doesn’t include throwaways or batted passes) traveled 10 yards or less. He completed 31 of those 38 passes.
  • The Eagles have scored on their first possession just three times in their last 10 games.
  • After their loss to the Bucs, the defense didn’t give up a first-possession score in the next six games. But in the last five games, they’ve given up three.

Paul Domowitch has covered pro football for five decades and has been a Hall of Fame selector since 2001. You can reach Paul at or follow him on Twitter at @pdomo.

Eagles Report is a partnership between Philly Mag and JAKIB Media Partners.